The Foot Bone’s Connected to the Shoulder Bone

Finding Comfort at the Computer
Your feet can make a big difference in the comfort of your neck & shoulders

Many people come to me for help with neck and shoulder tension and pain after spending long hours at a computer. That’s not surprising.

What is surprising is that recently, several of these folks had one thing in common—they don’t put their feet on the floor when sitting at the computer.

Now, it’s perfectly fine not to have your feet on the floor now and then. If you sit for any length of time, it’s essential to change things up, rather than always sitting in the exact same position. But you’re asking for trouble if the primary way you sit at your computer is with your feet off the floor. Your back, neck, shoulders and/or arms will soon be complaining.

What do you do with your feet at the computer?
Do you share any of my students’ preferred foot positions?
  • Feet tucked underneath your chair
  • Feet hooked around the front legs of your chair
  • Legs crossed with just one foot on the floor
  • Feet dangling in the air because they can’t reach the ground if you sit leaning on the back rest

You might be wondering, “Why does it matter where I put my feet when I’m sitting?” Assuming you’re sitting in a chair as you read this, try these two short experiments to for an immediate understanding.

Experiment #1: Are Your Feet Helping or Hurting Your Neck and Shoulders?

Note: This is best done in a stationary chair (rather than a chair with wheels).

1. Sit at the Front of Your Chair

Woman with one foot on ground
Support from below is essential to preventing neck and shoulder strain

Sit toward the front edge of your chair. Have your feet flat on the floor, comfortably spread. Take a moment to notice what it’s like to sit like this. What part of your pelvis presses into the seat? Is your low back rounded, arched or flat? How comfortable are your neck and shoulders? How stable/balanced do you feel?

2. Extend Your Legs (and Arms)

A. Extend both legs long in front of you so your heels are on the floor. Did your weight roll back on your pelvis? Is your lower back more rounded now? Do your neck and shoulders feel more or less comfortable?

B. Keeping your legs as they are, extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height. How much effort does it take to hold your arms like this? How might your neck and shoulders feel if you typed for 20 minutes in this position?

C. Sit with your feet flat on the floor again and rest for a moment.

3. Tuck Your Feet Under the Chair

A. Bend your legs and put your feet under your chair (your toes or balls of your feet touch the floor; your heels are in the air). What part of your pelvis presses most into the seat now? How comfortable are your neck and shoulders? How stable/balanced do you feel compared to the other ways of sitting?

B. Raise your arms like before. How much effort does it take now? How might your neck and shoulders feel after 20 minutes like this?

C. Sit with your feet flat on the floor again and rest for a moment.

4. Put Your Feet Flat on the Floor

Have both feet flat on the floor. Feel the support from both your two feet and your two sit bones (at the bottom of your pelvis). You can think of these four points as being similar to the four legs of a chair. Extend your arms in front again. Do they feel a little lighter or easier to lift than sitting in the other positions?


Experiment #2: Where’s the Best Place to Stand Your Feet?

Woman sitting effortlessly at computer
Let your feet bring ease to your neck and shoulders © IFF® Archive, Robert Golden

So you’ve experienced how the arrangement of your legs affects your sitting, as well as the effort required to lift and use your arms. Now let’s look at how the width of your feet and legs influences your ease and stability when sitting. Note: This is best done in a stationary chair (rather than a chair with wheels).

1. Sit at the Front of Your Chair

Sit near the front of your chair. Have your feet flat on the floor, comfortably spread. How comfortable are your back, neck and shoulders? How easy is your breathing? What part of your pelvis presses most into the seat? What’s the shape of your low back?

2. Sit with Legs Together

Bring your feet and knees together (I call this the uni-leg). Are you breathing more or less easily? Notice your inner thighs and belly. Are they working a little to keep your legs like this?

3. Sit with Legs Wide Apart

Next, open your feet and knees very wide apart. Notice if this has rolled your pelvis a little forward and created a small arch in your low back. Do your hips and inner thighs feel stretched too far?

4. Find the Best Place for Your Feet

Now move your feet to a place in between these two extremes. Then experiment with yet another place and observe your comfort again. Gradually find where your feet make sitting feel easiest; where your two feet and two sit bones provide the most comfortable 4-point base of support. In that place, raise your arms as if typing on a keyboard. Do your neck and shoulders rest a little more than usual?



One of the benefits of sitting like this (on your sit bones with your feet flat on the floor) is that you’re ready for action. Whether it be using a mouse, reaching for your phone or picking up a heavy mug of coffee, you can do so without straining your neck, shoulders or back.

In other words, this isn’t a fixed position to be in all the time. Instead, think of it as a home base that affords you the ability to move and adjust positions. You can enjoy a visit to the land of crossing your legs or a hiatus of tucking your feet under your chair, then return home. This kind of dynamic sitting allows you to refresh yourself and avoid the accumulated tension and discomfort of sitting in the same, unsupported position many hours a day.

I invite you to play with how and where you use your feet when sitting. Your neck and shoulders will thank you!


Just For Fun—Related Links

Women dancing in their office chairs
Time for a dance break!

Animals Sitting Like Humans: Because there’s nothing like cute pictures of animals to brighten your day.

Dance at Your Computer: Why take breaks to do boring (and often ineffective) stretching exercises when you can dance in your chair or around your office instead?


If you found this useful, make sure you don’t miss future articles—subscribe to my newsletter! Just use the quick-and-easy sign up form in the right sidebar.